Closing arguments in the case brought against Forever 21 by Trovata took place yesterday. Trovata accuses Forever 21 of knocking off the design of seven pieces, including cardigans, hoodies, shirts, and a jacket from fall 2005 to early 2006. WWD reports:
“This is about a lot more than buttons and threads,” Frank Colucci, who is representing Trovata, told the jury of six men and two women in U.S. District Court here. “It’s about how an array of unique elements is combined to embody the ‘twisted preppy’ look for which Trovata is known and praised.”
Colucci added that Forever 21 clearly doesn't care that they knock people off, and thinks they're too big and important to "play fair and decent." Judging by the Forever 21 founder, who acted like she hardly knew a damn thing about her company in court earlier this week, it's a solid argument.
Forever 21 lawyer Bruce Brunda countered: “You would need a telescope, or at least binoculars” to find the features Trovata alleges were copied “on anyone walking down a runway in a fashion show.”
He said “substantive changes were made” to the garments sold by Forever 21. “Where is that wrong?”
Now, the Trovata pieces and alleged knockoffs may look the same without the suggested magnifying tools, but that might not be enough for Trovata to win the case. The label is trying to convince the jury that similar design elements of the Forever 21 garments, like button placement and alternating stripes in contrasting colors (called "trade dress" in legal speak), constitutes an infringement of Trovata's intellectual property. It's a tough case to make. Trovata must prove that the visual appearance of their clothes links to their brand in consumers' minds. Trade dress does not constitute elements that serve a functional purpose, like non-decorative zippers. A ruling in Trovata's favor could prevent Forever 21 and other fast-fashion chains from knocking off designer pieces in the future.